The Stones at 50: Exiles On Viagra Street

There’s more creases and wrinkles on these mugs than a unmade bed.

Get out the Epson salts and rocking chairs!  The Rolling Stones are about to head out for a series of concerts for their “50 and Counting” World Tour (which certainly sounds better than the “We’re Not Dead Yet” and “We’re Back For More of Your Money” tour).

The group that once was the World’s Greatest Rock n’ Roll Band will yet again trot out a set list of some of their best with a few new tunes nobody cares about or wants to hear (The Stones’ last studio album, A Bigger Bang came out eight years ago).   I guess you’d call this a celebration of sorts to see Mick Jagger prance around yet again, Keith Richards and Ron Wood swap guitar leads and cigarette smoke and Charlie Watts pounding his small, but mighty drum kit.

Are we celebrating the fact the longevity of the Stones or that these old bastards can still put on a show for two hours without passing out or soiling themselves?  “Brown Sugar…how cum you taste so good?  Just like a black girl should…aw, I done a Number Two in me Depends.”

They still put on an EXPENSIVE show, that’s for sure.   When the minimum to see the Stones is $150 for the nosebleed seats and they top out at $2000 (notice I did not say they were for the best seats), you are officially engaged in price-gouging.   Even other musicians recognize that as Kid Rock said, “We’re all over-paid. It’s ridiculous. People stopped going to concerts because they can’t afford them! The Rolling Stones are charging $600. That just makes me speechless. I love the Stones, but I won’t be attending.”

Me neither.  Even if I could, I can’t justify a mortgage payment to see a bunch of old farts cranking their catalog of hits onstage.  I can go home, pop in a CD, turn down the bass, turn up the treble and accomplish the same thing.  Besides the Stones have released nearly a dozen live albums, so what’s the point?

Sucking in their Seventies.

Rock n’ roll is a young man’s game and when you’re pushing 70 (and 70 is pushing back hard) and your age passes your belt size, it ain’t a good look.   Mick and Keith are 69.  Charlie turns 71 next month and Woody is the baby at 65 and you mean to tell me they STILL can’t find no “Satisfaction.”  Man, if you ain’t got it by now you ain’t never gonna get it and even if you do what will you do with it when you get it?

Grace Slick of Jefferson Airplane/Starship hung it up precisely because she said she hated to see old people on stage.  She told Vanity Fair, “I left rock and roll professionally at about 49. That’s too long as far as I’m concerned. Some people can do it; it depends on what you were. If you were pretty and young and wore short skirts and were busy trying to be sexy and all that shit at 25, it worked. If you’re 50, it doesn’t work quite as well. ”

Jazz and blues are the only genres of music you can do well into your sunset years and nobody thinks you look ridiculous doing it.   Slick nailed it when she declared,  “I don’t want to see old people doing rap or rock and roll. It makes me cringe.”

I saw the Stones back in ‘76 at Cleveland Stadium.  The old Cleveland Stadium.  They tore it down and built another one.  Mick and Keith were older than me 37 years ago and if I’m too damned old to be sitting on a football field to see a show, they’re too old to be up on stage strutting around like two elderly roosters.

These Rolling Stones don’t roll all that much anymore.  Rolling gall stones is more like it.  The World’s Greatest Rock n’ Roll Band  circa 2013 is simply the World Greatest Rolling Stones Tribute Band.

Your pretty faces have gotten pretty old.

Seeing Sade Live: The Tickets Are Too Damn High!

Still looking good, but sounding good? It's going to cost you to find out.

Knowing how much of a fan I am, my sister sent me an e-mail to tell me Sade is coming to Columbus in July for the first time since her September 10, 2001 concert.   I hope she puts on a good show (and from seeing her in the past I have no doubt she will) and I pray there’s no day after as historic for all the wrong reasons as the last time she came to town.

However, I won’t be at there to find out.

I like Sade’s Soldier of Love but I do not love Soldier of Love. I hoped maybe over time I would, but nope.  One year after its release it’s still just second-rate Sade and when you’re demanding hundreds and in some cases thousands of dollars to see someone perform songs from a “okay” album live,  I had better be truly, madly deeply in love with it.

There’s no love at these prices.  If gas is too damn high and groceries are too damn high and the rent is too damn high, the best seats in the house .

The tickets at Value City Arena start at $109 for a seat in the terrace and top out at $449 to sit somewhere in section F3.   It’s not the nosebleed section, but it’s certainly not close enough to count Sade’s nose hairs either.

If I’m dropping over $900 bucks for two tickets I’m going to expect a backstage pass and champagne with Sade after the show.   Of course, maybe I’m just cheap.  The going price for a “top” ticket at the Staples Center in Los Angeles tops out at a measly $5,292!

When you look at the seating chart at Value City and what is unavailable to the public the first question is why paying top dollar doesn’t get you the best seats?

The answer of course is, the best seats never are available to the public.  The ticket brokers offer what is known as “pre-sale” tickets, but that won’t guarantee you a front-row seat .  The big shots and insiders get those.  You can’t touch this.

A fan on the Sade website explained how this process works (or in the case of the fan, doesn’t).

A credit card company or a fan club or Facebook is allotted a certain group of seats for a pre-sale. Every seat is pre-determined and chosen ahead of time. They then get the right to sell those exact seats in their pre-sales. Usually, there is a selection of every type of seat in the group – some good ones, some average ones, and some that aren’t so great.

Participating in a pre-sale doesn’t guarantee that you’ll get great seats. It just guarantees that you’ll get seats from that alloted group. They can work great for concerts that will sell out in minutes during the general sales, but if a concert isn’t going to sell out instantly, you can often get seats that are just as good or better in the general sale. It’s a little riskier though.

Even by participating in fan club presales, I’ve still never been able to get first, second, or third row for any concert ever. I talked to a Ticketmaster representative about this, and she told me that’s because those seats are generally held back for super premium sales, contests, well-connected people, etc.. They are near impossible to get in a pre-sale of any sort.

Hang on to your love? Hang on to your wallet is more like it.

The bloated price of a concert ticket can be blamed on many factors, but often its the artist themselves who take the hit.  Google “ticket prices” and a lot of pissed-off facts roar back in response.  Even on Sade’s official site one fan wrote,  “I, too am appalled by how much Sade concert tickets are. Her last show at Madison Square Garden was so good and I was really looking forward to seeing her again someday. But this seems like she’s trying to make up money from years of not earning. A lot of her fans won’t be able to pay this, and some of those who can will be disgusted to do so. Not cool, Sade. Don’t say “everyone” is doing it, because they’re not. I don’t want to assume you’re greedy, so I’ll believe you got in some trouble with a bookie or something like that instead.”

According to an ABC News report, with the collapse of record sales, artists now make up to 62 percent of their income from touring.  They have every incentive to keep the cost of a ticket high. That isn’t entirely without justification.  When Sade takes the stage it’s not as if  she strolls to the microphone wearing torn blue jeans with a guitar and a couple of backing musicians.    It’s a production putting on a major show and it takes lots of money to put it together, move it from city to city and employ anywhere to 50 to over 100 supporting staff.   Big acts put on big shows and demand big bucks. Cheap, it is not.

Downloading–illegal and otherwise–has reached right into the artist’s pocket.  Radio and record companies no longer break a new song or sell albums in the way they once did.   There is a generation of consumers whom only listen to singles, not albums and they have grown to expect the music should be made available to them as cheap as possible if not totally free.

But that’s no justification to gouge the fans $449 for a freaking two-hour concert.  The price is ridiculous.   For that kind of paper, I don’t want to see a one-hit wonder like John Legend as an opening act.   Throw in Stevie Wonder and Prince and I might be able that kind of outlay.  The operative phrase there being, ” I might.”

It’s not as if Sade is constantly on the road.   After a decade of silence, she dropped Soldier of Love, but then took another year  before going out to tour behind it.  To fill that lay-off, a new best-of CD,  The Ultimate Collection (featuring a Jay-Z 🙄 rap on one track) drops in May just before the America tour kicks off June in Baltimore.  That’s kind of weird, but then Sade is a weird kind of artist.

Unlike Kiss, the Eagles or the Rolling Stones, bands whom are always threatening that the next tour will be the last tour,  with Sade its more likely when she walks off the stage you won’t soon be seeing her again.   Simply cranking out the old hits  for big bucks has never seemed to be her prime motivation.

Which is not to say even Sade is immune to holding out the teasing temptation, “Well, are you sure you don’t want to see me one last time?”

Yes, I would like to see Sade one more time.  No, I won’t pay more for a couple of tickets more than I pay on my monthly mortgage.

I’ve seen Sade twice before.  It’s going to hurt a bit knowing she’s in town and I’m not there, but if I don’t see again I’ll take a Gloria Gaynor approach to it:  I will survive.

It’s never as good as the first time anyway.

"$449 for a ticket? Sure, I'm worth it."